Committee probing reports that farmers received inflated power bills divided on findings

Panel sends report without chairperson’s signature.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: July 24, 2017 4:26 am
farm electricity bills, inflated power bills, maharashtra farmers, mseb, faulty electric bill, maharashtra farmers, indian express In 2015, the MSEB had appointed a three-member committee to look into allegations that farmers had received inflated electricity bills in 2014-15. (Representational image)

A high-level fact-finding committee, probing allegations that farmers had received inflated power bills in 2014-15, has not managed to reach a conclusion on which all its members agree. The report, which has already been delayed by over a year, was submitted on Friday to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), but without the signature of the three-member committee’s chairperson, Vishwas Pathak. Pathak, also a director of MSEB, claimed to have no knowledge of the submission of the report.

“The findings of the report have to be put in perspective before being submitted to the MSEB. There are certain points of disagreement that can be smoothened out by another meeting,” he said.“However, if the report is indeed submitted, the MSEB will have to take a call on whether there should be a meeting and whether I will submit a separate report,” he added

In 2015, the MSEB had appointed a three-member committee to look into allegations that farmers had received inflated electricity bills in 2014-15. Besides Pathak, energy activists Pratap Hogade and Ashish Chandarana are a part of the committee. The committee commissioned a field study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), based on which it was to submit a report and suggest methods to improve the functioning of MSEDCL by December 2015.

The difference of opinion arose when the committee met on Friday to discuss the findings before presenting it to the MSEB and Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule.

Refusing to divulge the details of the report, Hogade said that the two committee members had presented a report based on the findings of the IIT-B study to the chairman of the committee. “We are in agreement with the IIT-B report based on which we prepared the report,” said Hogade.

The report, once reviewed by MSEB, will have to be presented to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC). According to sources, this could take a fortnight.

In its 2016 tariff order, the MERC had noted that of 4,178 feeders, 1,650 had shown negative losses, hinting at inflated bills. The commission will now take a decision on whether MSEDCL should revise the bills and refund the excess amounts to farmers based on the findings of the report.

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